Having spent nearly 50 years of my life living with ‘herding and working’ dogs, I decided to venture into Afghan Hounds, a breed I have long admired. I knew much of the basics of what owning an Afghan hound entailed, or so I thought! 

They are the real glamour pussies of dogdom, but underneath that beautiful long, silky coat is an arrogant, aloof, blue-blooded hunting sight hound! The Afghan hound is most certainly a high maintenance breed – needing much in the way of exercise and grooming. Anyone considering owning (or more to the point, being owned by) an Afghan must realise that to keep them looking beautiful takes a considerable amount of dedication. They like to gallop and are the fastest breed with twists and turns whilst running flat out. They cannot be safely let off their leashes whilst out for a walk – they will chase anything that moves including birds. 

Few places are far enough away from a road to keep your Afghan safe. In fact I thought I’d found the perfect safe haven to let our dogs loose, a beach with nothing but very high cliffs to the right and just sea to the left. A seagull was making fun of the dogs from the top of the cliff; you could see it saying ‘can’t catch me’! The Afghans looked up, looked at each other and in a split second where up the cliff face and gone! It was amazing. I was in a total panic – how do I get them back. A few minutes’ later three hairy faces appeared at the top of the cliff, and down they came with big smiles of ‘that was fun’! Needless to say they’ve not been off lead since!

We take our Afghans racing as often as possible, with Afghan Hound Association race meetings being held in various parts of the country every weekend between March and October. This is an activity the dogs and their owners really enjoy, it keeps us all fit especially when covering large distances on foot trying to catch the hounds once they’ve reached the imitation hare, and then decided it is more fun to play ‘catch me if you can’ in the middle of the track!

Another activity the Afghan loves is lure coursing. Again meetings are held at various locations around the country, in this case the ‘lure’ is a plastic carrier bag!
At these events the Afghan hound will be seen in a different light – their strong hunting instincts coming into play. They will bark and screech with excitement when they hear the hare start up, or catch sight of the ‘lure’.

There are Afghans around the world that enjoy agility, obedience and being PAT dogs. Most often they can be seen in large numbers in the show ring, standing with head held high, looking ‘at and through’ the judge, coats immaculately groomed blowing gently in the breeze.
The Afghan hound has breed characteristics that no other breed possesses! They have a natural coat pattern of shorter hairs down the neck, back and shoulder regions (and some have bare pasterns), they have extremely large, webbed feet, a unique ring in the end of their tails, pivotal hip joints so that the hip bones are visible, a long silky topknot, with their triangular shaped eyes they look ‘at and through one’, springy sloping pasterns and a unique springy gait. They also come in an enormous array of colours from white to black with every possible colour in between. 

There are three types of Afghan; the digger, the climber and the jumper. Whilst one is digging a tunnel under the fence, another is climbing over it and the other has cleared it! You certainly need an ‘Afghan proof’ garden. And if you really love your garden, an Afghan isn’t for you! They too love gardening, but it might not be in keeping with the way you do things! They are brilliant at dead heading flowers, and digging soakaways though.

Baby Afghans have smooth coats and a head that resembles a Labrador. Only as he reaches around 12 weeks of age do the true breed characteristics start to appear. The muzzle starts to lengthen, and the coat starts to grow. Puppies grow ‘monkey whiskers’ on their cheeks and really do look amazingly cute. Puppies are also incredible clowns, full of life and fun and really enjoy making you laugh. The Afghan hound really enjoys the company of other Afghan hounds. They play in a different way to other dogs; flying through the air, paws outstretched, play bowing, twisting and turning with incredible mobility.

Despite their look of dignified serenity, they are excellent guard dogs. The Afghan is a loving, loyal companion and will greet your home coming with the same enthusiasm they give to chasing the hare!

Most people have plants or ornaments on their windowsills - we have Afghan Hounds. They love to sit in the window surveying their surroundings – as if they owned the world.
All doggy people get used to the occasional dog hair in their meals or drinks, and they can be easily extracted. The same can’t be said for 12” long Afghan hairs, and no matter how hard you try they seem to get into everything! Only your very best friends and family will ever accept a dinner invitation, the others will find a host of excuses having once experienced eating in a house where the Afghan hound resides!

You will no longer have any furniture to sit on; the Afghans feel it is their right to commandeer every chair in the house. So, they have the furniture – we have the floor.

Whilst your friends are enjoying a social life, you are more likely to be in the bathroom bathing a dog. You really will need the excuse ‘I’m staying in to wash ‘their’ hair’. Owning the Afghan hound is more a way of life; they need very regular baths and grooming to keep them clean and knot free. As one Afghan never seems to be enough, the more you have the more time you’ll spend in the bathroom! Your bathroom will also be taken over by a huge amount of coat products you never thought possible! When they start changing from their puppy coat to their adult coat, mats will appear before your very eyes! The puppy fluff falls into the newly arriving silky coat, and they can mat for Britain. For a show coat, bathing every 4 or 5 days is a must during this stage, and this stage can last for a year or longer!

My dogs also have a bigger wardrobe than I have! Snoods to keep their ears out of their food and unmentionables whilst out walking, wet weather coats and boots for muddy wet walks, towelling bath robes for bath days, pee suits to prevent the males from covering their coats in urine on show days, bone suits to prevent them chewing their leg hair whilst eating bones, fleeces to keep them warm in winter, silver sun jackets to keep them cool in the summer and jogging suits so that they can go for walks without picking up twigs and leaves in their coats. The Afghan coat is rather like a road sweeper; within seconds of walking you are freeing them from thorns and branches, which seem to entwine the front legs to the back ones! Bitches if kept in coat for a litter will also require a maternity suit, to prevent the puppies strangling themselves on their dam’s long hair.

Afghan hounds are trainable, but only oblige if they think your request is reasonable or if it interests them. Mine are far more amiable to my requests than any other breed I’ve lived with, but I only ask of them what I see is reasonable from their point of view. I like free thinking of my dogs, and have never wanted subservience or an immediate response to what I ask for. I like to see dogs behave in a natural manner, something that the Afghan hound really appreciates.

I like walking for hours, and with an Afghan on the end of the lead you’ll certainly need to allow plenty of time. When walking my Tervueren other dog walkers would grab their dogs and run, or throw themselves in the bushes having a natural fear of anything with a black face and pricked ears! Not so with the Afghan hound. Everyone wants to talk about them, but only ever ask three questions! ‘Don’t see many of those around these days?’ ‘Bet they take a lot of brushing?’ ‘They are stupid dogs aren’t they?’ To the first question I answer ‘thank goodness for that’! To the second question ‘yes, but so what. These days it seems people are so lazy! To the third (and most irritating of them all) ‘no they are not! 

They are the most intelligent dogs I have ever had the pleasure of sharing my life with. Not many dogs can open fridge doors with ease, open every door in the house regardless of what type of handle or lock it has and out think your every move. Why the sum of dog intelligence has to be based on the dog’s subservience to man I just don’t know! Which leads me to the question, which is more intelligent; a dog that does what you want, or a dog that does what it wants? People don’t consider that their cats are stupid because they don’t instantly carry out a series of benign commands, so why is a dog stupid that doesn’t either? Which brings me back to the Afghan hound, a dog that really is more like a cat!

Marcelle King, 2005